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PART-TIME LOVE AFFAIR

Williamsburg eatery Anytime has eclectic menu that’s great only some of the time

for The Brooklyn Paper
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If I were blindfolded and led into Anytime, I’d know the second the sash came off that I was in Williamsburg. Everything about the recently renovated space - the cement floors, the chocolate-brown walls, the light fixtures made of circular pieces of shell, the gorgeous, and amazingly comfortable stainless steel banquettes - screams hip Billyburg.

Cutting edge cool? Yes it is. Wonderful to look at? Yes, especially compared to its previous incarnation. In October, brothers and co-owners Yoni and Saul Margulies added a 700-square-foot dining room that seats 40.

"If everyone is drunk at 4 am, we can squeeze in 70," says Yoni. The brothers designed and constructed everything except the lighting fixtures.

It’s an extreme makeover for the 3-year-old eatery. The former space was little more than a counter, a bar with a few stools, and lighting so unforgiving it made 20-year-olds look haggard.

Until the new dining area was built, Anytime was mostly a 24-hour takeout restaurant serving healthy, diner-style, vegetarian-friendly fare. No one had to stay and eat, so ambience wasn’t an issue.

The menu of "eclectic American, European and Middle Eastern dishes," says Yoni, answered the craving of many a starving artist.

Tater Tots at 2 am?

No problem.

A couple could, and still can, place an order for a chicken parmigiana sandwich with a side of mozzarella sticks, while the other can request the pan-seared salmon in a sauce of pureed spinach and white wine followed by chocolate mousse for dessert.

While the decor has been upgraded, the menu hasn’t budged, and prices have risen marginally: most of the food is priced at about $8-$9. In April, seasonal dishes were added to the menu such as mozzarella with tomato and basil, avocado and Gruyere cheese, and Brie and cucumber, all served on a light focaccia bread.

Anytime’s chef is Guy Muallem, a graduate of The French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, who has been with the restaurant for two and a half years. Muallem still needs a little seasoning. He is able to produce real highs, and a couple of lows that should never have made their way out of the kitchen.

Compare two soups. One, a mix of chunky, wild mushrooms is stellar - heady with clean mushroom flavor, not so creamy that it’s cloying, with a fragrance that invites you to lean over the bowl and breathe deeply. Points of chewy ciabatta bread make it easy to swipe the last bits of deliciousness from the bowl. But the other soup, a puree of potatoes and leeks, was as bodiless as water. The soup’s one-note flavor is derived from thinly sliced scallions scattered over the top of the bowl.

How do you taste a soup like that and then serve it?

Little glitches continued through the entrees into dessert. A salad of fresh greens, shredded beets, perfect slices of avocado and thinly sliced apple would have been enjoyable if its dressing wasn’t tasteless; the Anytime lamb burger was rare as ordered, crusty on the outside, juicy within and spiced with oregano, but the burger’s side of fries had been frozen too long, leaving them with as much taste as a sauteed dish towel. Fresh chopped cucumbers and ripe tomatoes with mint and dill in a sprightly dressing brightened the plate. Eight falafel balls were light and well seasoned.

The deep bowl of spaghetti Bolognese could easily feed three (a bargain at $7.50), and I liked the big dollop of ricotta cheese that topped the pasta. But the sauce needed garlic and salt to lift it from the doldrums.

Ask for dessert and, again, it’s way up there with a luxurious, bittersweet chocolate mousse and a long fall down with a round of cheesecake as dense as a brick of cream cheese and with as much finesse.

Few neighborhoods have a place like Anytime where they can order a mundane cheddar and tuna melt, a restorative bowl of chicken noodle soup, Middle Eastern specialties like baba gannouj (pureed eggplant spread) or a hummus (chickpea spread) plate and even creme brulee.

The restaurant’s second act, as a glamorous sit-down restaurant, can be viewed two ways: an unexpected bonus to a late-night snack, or a mismatch of sophisticated space and takeout fare.

At 4 am, I doubt it matters.

 

Anytime (93 North Sixth St. between Wythe Avenue and Berry Street in Williamsburg) accepts Discover, Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Delivery is available in Williamsburg, East Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Entrees: $7.50-$14. For information call (718) 218-7272.

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